Following intense Russian bombing reports are trickling in that the Syrian army is on the verge of breaking ISIS’s siege of Deir Ezzor airport, and has recaptured several critical gas fields west of Palmyra.
I should say that the Syrian army appears to have prioritised capture of the gas fields over recapturing Palmyra itself, though Al-Masdar says that Syrian troops are now no more than 30 km from the city.
Further north there are reports that the Kurdish militia the YPG is preparing to cut the road from Raqqa south to Deir Ezzor, severing ISIS’s communications between the two towns.
There are also reports that the YPG has received armoured vehicles from the US, at the same time that Russia has supplied more advanced T90 tanks and Tigr and Vodnik armoured vehicles to the Syrian military via the port of Tartus.
If these reports are all true, then they suggest that the crisis in eastern Syria caused by the sudden offensive launched by ISIS there in December has been overcome. The reports also suggest that a certain degree of coordination between the Russians, the Syrians and the YPG, with the objective of cutting ISIS’s supply lines from Raqqa to Deir Ezzor.
Lastly, the supply of Tigr and Vodnik armoured vehicles by the Russians to the Syrian military suggests that more offensives against ISIS are planned. The Tigr and the Vodnik are essentially armoured cars (they are sometimes compared to the US Humvee, though they are more heavily armoured), which are more suitable for the fast moving mobile warfare against ISIS in Syria’s central and eastern desert regions than the heavier BTR armoured personnel carriers and BMP infantry fighting vehicles the Russians have supplied to the Syrian army to fight Al-Qaeda in the west.